U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) delivered a speech on the Senate floor today to help lead the fight to pass a Sense of the Senate resolution to end the war in Afghanistan. Senator Manchin was an original cosponsor of the amendment, and has been a vocal advocate for ending America's longest war. The amendment passed 62-33.
"After more than 10 years, more than 2,000 American lives lost and more than $500 billion spent, it is time to bring our warriors home to a hero's welcome," Senator Manchin said. "It's time to focus our resources on rebuilding America, not on rebuilding Afghanistan, and it's time for the Afghan people to decide their destiny and take responsibility for governing themselves."
Full text of the speech, as prepared for delivery, is below.
Mr. President, it's time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. They have been there since October 7, 2001. They have defeated Al-Qaeda, and they have killed Osama bin Laden. Now, we need to bring them home.
Sixty-six thousand American combat troops remain in Afghanistan. President Obama plans to reduce their number at "a steady pace" until they're home by the end of 2014.
I would prefer a faster pace as long as it didn't jeopardize the safety of the troops. After all, this war has already surpassed the Vietnam War as the longest in American history. And it has already cost us dearly-- nearly 2,000 American military personnel dead; many thousands more maimed; and more than $500 billion spent.
Even so, I support the bipartisan amendment sponsored by Senator Merkley of Oregon. It backs the President's current plan to end combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
But I support the amendment because it also calls for a quicker transition of security operations from U.S. forces to Afghan Security Forces. Instead of the end of 2014, the amendment urges the transition to take place in the summer of 2013. That, hopefully, would bring a quicker end to U.S. involvement in combat in Afghanistan.
This amendment merely expresses the sense of the Senate. It is not binding on President Obama, and it will not affect any negotiations between Washington and Kabul on whether a residual force of U.S. military advisers in Afghanistan after 2014.
Mr. President, U.S. forces went to Afghanistan in pursuit of those who planned and ordered the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States that killed almost 3,000 Americans.
With valor and courage, they drove from power the Taliban, which had given bin Laden a base from which he could launch horrific attacks on innocent American civilians. They captured or killed or brought to justice the leaders of Al --Qaeda. And eventually, they tracked down bin Laden himself and made sure he would never again harm another American.
After more than 10 years, more than 2,000 American lives and more than $500 billion, it is time to bring our warriors home to a hero's welcome, time to focus our resources on rebuilding America, not on rebuilding Afghanistan, time for the Afghan people to decide their destiny and take responsibility for governing themselves.